Ancient kings had inbred children with sisters to maintain bloodlines say scientists after studying 5,000-year-old DNA

SCIENTISTS have unearthed evidence that some ancient leaders in Stone Age Ireland were incestuous, having inbred kids to maintain their bloodlines.

Genetic analysis carried out on the remains of a man buried in the centre of one of the grandest tombs in County Meath, north of Dubin, has shown that his parents were either siblings or parent and child.

Researchers believe he was part of an inbred elite, similar to the incestuous rulers of ancient Egypt or the Inca civilisation.

Dan Bradley, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin said: “This came out of the blue.

“We saw the results and thought: ‘Oh goodness — it’s an Irish pharaoh’.”

The remains were found in the Newgrange passage tomb which was built 5,200 years ago, making it older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids.

Around 200,000 tons of earth were moved to build the large circular mound.

The Newgrange passage tomb is one of three large tombs built in the Brú na Bóinne cemetery complex.

To get to the burial chamber you have to walk along a stone-lined passageway.

The burial chamber is aligned with the sun so it is lit up for a few minutes every year as the sun rises on and around the shortest day of the year.

The man’s remains were discovered in the central chamber indicating his parents’ incestuous union was accepted by society, the researchers argue.

“Socially sanctioned mating of this nature is very rare, and is documented almost exclusively among politico-religious elites — specifically within polygynous and patrilineal royal families that are headed by god-kings,” they write in a study published in the journal Nature.

We saw the results and thought: ‘Oh goodness — it’s an Irish pharaoh’

“We propose that a comparable set of social dynamics was in operation in Ireland by the Middle Neolithic, and — given that solstice-aligned passage tombs similar to Newgrange were constructed in Wales, Orkney and Brittany — may have occurred outside the island as well.”

Paper author and geneticist Lara Cassidy of Trinity College Dublin said: “I'd never seen anything like it. We all inherit two copies of the genome, one from our mother and one from our father.

“Well, this individual's copies were extremely similar, a tell-tale sign of close inbreeding.

“In fact, our analyses allowed us to confirm that his parents were first-degree relatives.”

The researchers believe there may be some connection with their discovery to the Irish legend of Bresal, a mythical king who set out to build a tower to heaven but ended up with a hill, named the “tumulus of sin,” reports The Times.

Any connection may be tenuous though as there are some 40 centuries between the individual and the first written version of the legend.

“I would not pin my reputation to it,” Professor Bradley said.

But his colleagues find the possible connections interesting. “Given the solstice alignments of Brú na Bóinne, the magical solar manipulations in this myth already had scholars questioning how long an oral tradition could survive,” Ros Ó Maoldúin, an archaeologist and co-author of the study, said.

“To now discover a potential prehistoric precedent for the incestuous aspect is extraordinary.”

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